“Stay focused and do not resort to shortcuts”

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Your work portfolio is admirable ranging from Interior Design work in private residences to trains like the Palace on Wheels and the Rajdhani and to heritage buildings like the Umaid Bhavan. How has been your journey like?

It’s been 29 years now since I have been working. From being an interior designer, I have graduated to undertaking civil and interior works both on consultancy and turnkey basis. I have been lucky to work on a very wide spectrum of projects ranging from trains, palaces, ships, residences, institutes, schools, hotels and offices.
The journey has been exciting and very enriching as I have tried to evolve and and learn at every stage from everyone around me – my staff, labour, clients and time.
It’s an exciting profession where one keeps evolving and growing as trends keep changing.

Umaid Bhavan palace 1

Umaid Bhavan Palace / Pic Courtesy : Payal Kapoor

What challenges have you faced on such projects?

All projects have the same challenges. Timelines, budget and final end-product result ,which has to be above board and up to the expectations of the client.

Which has been your most memorable project and why?

All projects are like one’s babies but some are challenging and exciting.
Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur was exciting as it taught me a lot of period style and was very enriching working with one of the most respected royal families. Balsamand lake palace, Imperial hotel and other heritage properties in Rajasthan probably subconsciously made me put my best foot forward to design the Palace on Wheels conversion from metre gauge to broad gauge.
Similarly, G D Goenka School and the International school set the trend for business schools altogether at a different level as compared to the plain Jane schools one was use to seeming till 1990s.
Similarly some residences have been great to work on as my rapport with the client and their trust in me has been immense, so it becomes even more important for me to live up to their expectations. Ships like mint casino in Goa has taught me to face the challenges of a different kind.

You are known as the only Indian designer to be featured in the Volume of Barons greatest interior designers of the world? How does that feel?

It was quite an honour to get featured in the “greatest designers of the world” coffee table book and The Who’s Who of the world book. This happened in 1995/96 when I was honoured by the US Government for achieving the pinnacle of success and bringing India on top of the list from the last position.We rose from 10th position to the No. 1 position amongst the top 10 trains of the world. It felt very nice to be recognised and honoured.

Palace on Wheels / Pic Courtesy : Payal Kapoor

Palace on Wheels / Pic Courtesy : Payal Kapoor

Can you briefly describe your approach towards an assignment?

I approach design entirely on my clients brief and the it’s end use with the desired look . That is the reason that my projects do not look the same or repetitive. It’s only when the client tells me to do whatever I feel will look good, and does not restrict me, I put a lot of extra effort and put my best foot forward and go that extra mile to achieve a unique design.

What inspires you or keeps you motivated to come up with such brilliant designs?

My client’s trust in me and the motivation to do something better , more trendy and unique is challenging enough for me. To integrate civil, interiors and landscape into one design and present it as an integral part of design is challenging for me. Also to evolve as a professional is essential.

Palace on Wheels / Pic Courtesy : Payal Kapoor

Palace on Wheels / Pic Courtesy : Payal Kapoor

What skills, technical and otherwise, should aspiring designers need to have?

In my opinion, young designers need focus, dedication and respect for time and timelines, to be successful . Of course constant research, and growth and awareness for all new trends and styles is very crucial .

Do you also mentor youngsters or take them as interns to learn the nuances of this field?

I do take on interns but very few if I may say so have focus and are serious. Unfortunately they feel a year of working with me makes them knowledgeable and capable to branch out on their own.

What advice would you want to give to the aspiring interior designers?

Advise to young designers is to stay focused and serious. Do not resort to short cuts and under cutting. Learn to make your own identity and be honest. There is no short-cut to hard work and honesty. Leave the rest to destiny as it will always reap benefits if you are true and honest in your approach to your self and your work.

You can visit Payal Kapoor’s website here.